Smitherman's so-called transportation plan: joining Rocco in kicking cyclists off major streets

George Smitherman, mayoral candidate, has published a "transportation plan", or, as I prefer to call it, a thinly veiled nod to motorists and patronizing approach to transit, cycling and walking. It may be easier in an era of a "war on cyclists" that a mayoral candidate can get away with a platform that does less for cyclists than what is in the Bike Plan already.

"Furious George" has adopted candidate Rossi's tactic of "supporting" cyclists so long as they get off all the major roads, by saying he'll provide "safer routes on less busy main roads" with a focus on bike "expressways". He seems to want to raise the ire of his past self who said weeks ago in response to Rossi's plan:

In terms of suggesting bicycles should be relegated to crescents and cul-de-sacs, this is akin to saying you’re not in favour of the city of Toronto being a modern city… I don’t think it’s leadership to take the language of the war on the car and flip it on its head and say, “The war on the car has had its go at city hall. I’m going to advance the war on the bike.”

So where's this modern city, George, while you're trying shove all the cyclists into the ravines and hydro corridors like so much garbage?

Here's the fine print on George's plan:

  • Time out on construction of new bike lanes on arterial roadways, but move immediately to ensure current cycling routes are safer and better maintained

Why the time out? Until when? And why not have a time out on improvements for all road users until you figure things out? Why do only cyclists have to suffer?

  • physical separation of bikes and cars: bicycle lanes should be separated from cars with properly curbed lanes, so everyone can travel more safely

Many cyclists like the idea of physical separation but there so many places where this is impractical because of parked cars and such.

  • Moving forward, expedite the expansion of dedicated bike “expressways” though hydro corridors, ravines and other non-roadways by 2015

George is promising work that is already being built: push the hydro corridors that already have time lines established by their receipt of federal stimulus money. The schedule of construction and completion has already been set (see the long list of trails being built this year) and no Mayoral candidate can change that. By the time George got into office he would be just in time for the ribbon cutting.

Even if these were new initiatives, there is likely no chance that any of them will be any use to Central Toronto commuters - for cyclists commuting in the area bounded by Keele to Coxwell, St. Clair to the lake.

  • Increase opportunities for children to learn bike safety and rules of the road

Always a nice thing, but very vague. Is this going to be introduced in schools?

  • Better maintenance of bike routes—including year round upkeep, with snow clearance on bike expressways

And snow clearance on bike lanes, I hope.

  • Integration of cycling into Toronto’s planning and transit, by looking at incentives and possible partnerships to build a better bike infrastructure. Toronto should consider better bike parking at TTC stations, shower facilities and other ideas that make it easier for “dual-mode commuting” (riding to a TTC or GO station and hopping on transit).

A lot of this work is already being done. City staff are already planning bike stations at TTC stations.

"[O]ver the past year, rhetoric against this simple transportation mode has so infected the mayor's race the provision of safe cycling infrastructure will likely become a relic of the David Miller era after the fall election." I hope InsideToronto is wrong and that the new Mayor will take cyclists and their safety seriously and not simply try to make them disappear.


I met George at the Ward 29 Environment Day earlier this spring, where he became a little confrontational with me on some issues, and I found that a little surprising.

He said he was focused on improving existing Bike Lanes - something that is a current initiative at City Hall; and then talked about the Hydro Corridors - work that is already being funded by Federal money and set to conclude by March of 2011.

I challenged him on the fact that the Trails on Hydro Corridors were a result of previously approved work supported by Ottawa and not work to be credited to him or the City, that's when he snapped at me," I was the Minister of Energy when that work was being planned, so I should know!"

I bit my tongue in an effort to remain on speaking terms with what maybe our future Mayor, but I really wanted to tell him he was full of shit.

His only valid claim was not publicly bashing the Jarvis Bike Lanes – WOW!

His tactics of pandering to voters is boldly apparent, and cyclists don't register on his radar. George Smitherman will apparently say what ever it takes to get elected, but even if he does, it’s just one vote at City Council.

This is just another example that cycling issues will only be advanced by Public Policy, and not our Politicians.

I would never ever vote for someone who says he will "time out construction of new bike lanes" (without a solid plan to back it up)

Our existing bike lanes are already incomplete. The best way to improve our existing bike infrastructure is to connect it as a grid while also improving the quality. It doesn't make sense to only do one or the other.

Can we please, for the love of god, get a mayoral candidate who has a vision for a bike grid that connects safe cycling routes together instead of candidates who will (at best) stick with the status quo of adding little 0.2km patches of bike lanes, and at worst, halt construction of all new bikes lanes or even rip out existing infrastructure?

We need a leader. So far I'm not seeing anything that resembles a leader on any of the issues the city is facing.

Why the fuck isn't Gil Penalosa running for Mayor??

So far, all these media-backed, mayoral candidates who claim to have solutions to TORONTO's transportation woes, reveal when questioned about even the simplest of details, that they don't understand the basic issues involved.

They all have grandiose infrastructure plans for moving Torontonians, and our welcome guests, about town, but which of them truly understands that the same infrastructure must also accommodate goods delivery.

One asks oneself, why is it that none of them seem capable of seeing the traffic for the trucks?

Simple, they are amateurs when it comes to street-level mobility, and they look at problem solving from the top down. Unfortunately, any real fix of our transportation crisis must come from the bottom up.

As we've seen from recent events, the powerful within our dysfunctional three-tiered political system certainly view cycling and cyclists at the rock-bottom of their priority lists, probably as we don't traditionally represent a large voting block. It's unfortunate, because if all of the city's smaller jobs and journeys that could be efficiently accomplished through active transport practices were, those with larger loads and longer distances would have much more freedom to operate.

As far as Smitherman goes, he betrays the same fundamental ignorance that immediately destroyed Rossi's credibility.

By recommending meandering bikeways along residential streets and riverbeds, they both show that they fail to comprehend that arterial roadways are destinations in and of themselves, and by denying cyclists safe and direct access to them, they also deny the reality that human power remains the viable and - as WE ALL KNOW - necessary foundation of any sustainable, practicable urban mobility system.

I'm still waiting for a candidate worth voting for. Late-comers can still register to run up 'til mid-September, I believe. Let the grasping, ego-driven career politicians tear each other to shreds all summer.

Maybe some young, vital person boasting real-life accomplishment will accept the challenge and step forward at the last minute to save the day.

If so, please let me know what I can do to help, eh? ( :-)

Thanks for writing up this post Herb - we need to track down exactly what the major folks are and are not willing to do for us, not that we own the road.

The majority of the candidates seem on the "carist" side - as we're dominated by car-driving suburbs thanks to the amanglemation of Harris, and there's a strong desire to maintain privilege as most women can attest to.

I attempted to interest Mr. Smitherman in the Bloor St. Transformation Project's driving over two, 2! pieces of provincial legislation, the EA Act and the Places to Grow Act, by copying him with some letters. No reaction/response, and now the project is up to $30M and remains inadequate for bike safety, despite the clear motion of Council a few years back to greatly improve biking through here.

So he's weak on the environmental/bike side already.

What we need to do is perhaps talk less about bike safety, and sell the idea of Bloor bike lanes as a way of expanding the Bloor/Danforth subway for almost nothing eg. the cost of paint. The logic is that at crush hour, the system is grroaning; there are many captive riders especially nearer to the core that if biking were made safer, they would get off the subway and start biking, and perhaps this could include winter biking too. So if we could entice 2 or 3% of current subway riders off of the sbuway onto bikes, that's basically expanding the subway for free.

This logic hasn't yet crept into City Wall despite four years of announcing the study of a Bloor bikeway, so "progressives" and Council candidates also need a bit/lot of help with this idea.
Meanwhile, let's keep riding Bloor - though maybe we should also warn the City of their ongoing liability and copy yourselves in case you get hurt.

Gil Penalosa would be a great mayor, but he also crapped on the University bike lane plan. His issue was that while separated lanes are part of the solution for getting people out of their cars and onto a bike, the plan wouldn't have worked unless the network connected people to where they want to go. The University plan would have connected Queen's Park to the Eaton Centre, but that ain't exactly a network. The City should have talked about connecting the new University lane with separated lanes on Harbord and Simcoe down to the restored MGT, and then we might have been getting somewhere.

Smitherman may not exactly share or understand the views of cyclists in this city, but the idea of prioritizing better and safer existing bike lanes over new bike lanes is not a bad one, and activists should not be too quick to crap on Smitherman's plan. If the mayoral candidates think there is nothing to gain by reaching out to cyclists, then don't be surprised when they don't reach out to cyclists.

It would be much better to say, "OK Smithy, we're listening. Do you mean you're going to create a proper grid, or are you just going to put a little wall around these fragmented little paths that dot the map? Unless my 9-year-old daughter can safely ride with us from our house to the ferry ports, these curbed bike lanes won't do much for anyone."

If Smitherman starts using the words "continuous," "grid," "connected" and "network" when talking about his bike plan, he could get my vote.

Smitherman's position on bike lanes is a calculated "turtle move" in order to limit his exposure to a contentious issue in the minds of voters. Improving existing bike lanes is a safe, strategic volley right up the middle of soft values for both drivers & cyclists. Maybe his real positions will become evident if he actually makes it to the Mayor's chair, but what we are seeing now is not worthy of praise; if anything, it is a reflection of the anemiic state of public policy where cycling is concerned.

He can recommend and install all the back street and hydro lanes he likes, but it will just be a waste. Commuters are still going to take the main roads, because none of them want to double cycling time by having to slow/stop at every block for stop signs on the back streets, and no one is going to go out of their way to take the hydro and ravine corridors - which will likely be taken over by recreational users anyway, thus slowing things again.

The city insists on treating us legally similar to cars. They should also realize that we would like to commute through the city in similar ways to the cars.

Anyway, my main point is, smitherman and others like him are on the road to major money wasting, because people are just going to take the routes they want, whether there is cycling lanes or not.

We just need a mayor who'll make the police prioritise their traffic policing against the most dangerous behaviours (careless automotive driving, door prizes, and all taxis) rather than the most expedient (speeding on Lakeshore, and bell and helmet tickets). That will halve the trips to hospitals for us all: drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians. You could even sell that to Joe Fatso Driver, for 'the sake of the children'.

However, some recent study suggests 1/3 of Toronto's accidents have streetcar tracks as a contributing factor. One piece of infrastructure I'd like to see are rubber cycle-safe flanges in the tracks, at least at intersections. Just love how the city's publications tell us to take tracks at 90*. Just how am I supposed to do that at College and Spadina, with all eight I need to cross?!

And I think most of them drive in to their work rather than bike, or transit. That ratio is likely the same with a lot of the high-end civil servants too.
I think there was an attempt to link employment with residency, but it was challenged by the police on Charter grounds, and the Charter trumped.
Caronto, Ontcario - it's hard to overcome, especially when providing effective transit for low-density job and residential sprawl cost a goldmine, and direct, dedicated routes are near-impossible.
Carism is alive and well at times. Automobility is sacarosanct.- but bikes are better.
safe rides!

qwerty, as we now see from the releasing of the confidential policy of how to get a parking ticket cancelled, we can clearly see why bike lanes are persistently filled with parked cars and trucks.

Additionally, as our laws, courts and police have shown us over and over again, the life of a person outside of a motor vehicle has as little value as road-kill.

More/better policing simply won't happen. Why we really need is better cycling infrastructure, i.e. physically separated lanes.

Oh, and make mine a Jersey Barrier.

We don't just need better cycling infrastructure. We need a justice justice system for cyclists. The one in place in the City of Toronto has failed cyclists so grandly that its not repairable. Police, lawyers, politicians, and our courts fail to provide any sense of hope for cyclists to have justice or safety. We need another system that shows RESPECT to Cyclists!

to the impunity for drivers, period, regardless of who they kill. Cyclists, pedestrians, other motorists, regardless, motorists can expect the same obscene parody of justice. A store owner makes a citizen's arrest against a serial thief who torments him, and gets charged with unlawful imprisonment. A motorist punches a cyclist so hard in a fit of road rage that the cyclist loses a tooth, on camera, and the judge rules the motorist did no more than defend his right of way. Two young men hit a popular and hardworking Afghan cab driver and kill him one day before he gets his citizenship and brings over his family. They get a year's house arrest and another year of 11-6 curfew (which their parents can excuse them from by giving them a note). Most recently, a speeding and flagrantly irresponsible driver wipes out a family of five with his cement truck. He gets eight years, but the judge cuts it back to five and a half. Those of us who have a memory for such things will notice that Karla Holmulka got six more years than that for killing two fewer people. Her bad for not involving an internal combustion engine.

It seems that even the mainstream media has begun, haltingly to take notice of some of the more extreme disparities. May I modestly suggest that, as cyclists, we might notice that we have a lot of potential allies out there?

John G. Spragge
Mariner, cyclist, pilot

I was hit by a TTC Streetcar a couple weeks ago. I was riding between parked cars and traffic and had moved out to pass the cars. The TTC collided with the BACK of my bike, damaging it and snapping the rack off it. The driver got out and yelled at me for hitting her, and asked with sarcasm if she "really has to ring her bell every time she approaches me". She proceeded to get in a yelling argument with another person - I called the police. Despite the fact that I called 911, the police NEVER took a statement from me. I later called the PC who had already concluded that there was NO COLLISION, and that I THREW my bike (WTF). I even followed up with the Sgt. The police NEVER asked me what happened despite the fact that I called 911. They told me "I don't know what to tell you, you were not a victim, you did not get hit, and there will be no report filed"!

Toronto police seem todo this frequently, i have other stories of similar non-incidents.

Toronto has an image to uphold. lol. I can't belive i wrote that in light of Bryant getting away with manslaughter.

OIPRD - Office of the Independent Police Review Director, available online. File a complaint. Hopefully you made notes, bonus if you got names of any witnesses. Good luck.

Thanks Monique. I've already filed with the OIPRD and the TTC complaints processes. Sadly, I didn't get names of any witnesses. There was one but he got in a big yelling match with the driver and I was trying to stay calm and uninvolved with the crazyness. Somehow I had it in my head that the police would help with all that when they arrived. Although I should have known better. I have the TTC Streetcar number, time, location, but that's all. I don't expect anything useful from the Toronto Police. And really, even if they did take it more seriously, the court system would have thrown it out. I've had that happen with other accidents where the drivers been charged. And look at the Bryant case. Its nuts.
I'd love to do a class action suit against the City .... on the mass failure to provide safety to cyclists ... despite all their talk about the value of cycling. But somehow I have a feeling the justice system would fail there too.

Thanks again.

pennyfarthing ok frye